Get informed about retiring in your country of residence and the challenges it brings about. It pays to plan early.
Are you planning to retire abroad?
There are important points to pay attention to. Here are our tips for being perfectly prepared.
Make sure you are registered with the relevant local Swiss representation. You can also do this easily via our online desk.
In the event that you can no longer take certain decisions yourself, a contact person is needed.
Provide this person's contact details to the Swiss representation or use the online desk.
You can draw your Swiss OASI pension from wherever you are living. Contact the Swiss Compensation Office for information on how to do so.
It's best to clarify important health concerns well before you leave. What can the local healthcare system provide?
Getting older can be expensive, medically. You've got to have good insurance covering the costs of healthcare and any accidents.
Make sure you know in advance what your options are if the state of your health no longer allows you to live independently.
Advance decisions, i.e. living wills can be decisive if one day you are no longer able to express healthcare wishes yourself. Fill it out in advance.
With a will, you can designate who is to inherit your assets. A specialist in your country of residence can help you in this area.
Have you communicated your wishes regarding funeral arrangements? Draft a document or tell a family member or your doctor what your wishes are.
These steps will help you retire abroad carefree.
Now don't forget that while the FDFA does provide support for Swiss citizens abroad, it can only help with consular affairs.
This means that you also bear personal responsibility for your stay abroad.
For more information and our brochure "Ageing well abroad", see the FDFA website under "Retiring abroad".
Brochure "Ageing well abroad"
Even if old age seems a long way off, it is important to ensure you are well-prepared for it. Living abroad may mean that governmental support, along with familial and social networks, may not be as readily available as they are in Switzerland. It is crucial to consider potential situations where you might require assistance and to arrange the necessary precautions in case your independence is compromised.
The following brochure can help you with your planning:
Health and prevention
Before retiring abroad you will need to look at the healthcare available in your chosen country and, if necessary, discuss your needs and circumstances with your GP in advance. Further information on health and prevention is available below.
- What medical services are available?
- Will I be able to communicate with the doctors there? Do they do house calls? How can I contact a doctor in an emergency?
- Are there any good hospitals? Can I get surgery done there, or would I have to go back home for a major operation?
- Do I have the right health cover? Or do I meet the requirements for comprehensive health and accident insurance (and can I afford this)?
- If you can, visit the hospital beforehand.
- Who is my emergency contact?
When it comes to medical treatment in your destination country, think about the following:
Some Swiss representations abroad have a list of hospitals or can give you the contact details of their approved medical practitioner. This type of information can also be found on the websites of some European countries.
- Do I have health and accident insurance?
- Does it provide adequate cover? If not, how can I cover my medical expenses?
- If I need to be transferred to Switzerland for medical reasons, do I have medical evacuation insurance?
As you age, medical expenses rise, making comprehensive health and accident insurance essential.
- How is elderly care structured in my country of residence?
- Which local retirement homes are suitable? Can I visit these homes in person?
- Would I rather reside in a Swiss care home, and if so, which ones are feasible?
- How would I finance this type of care, either locally or back in Switzerland?
If your health status changes and independent living becomes unmanageable, it is important to know your options.
In a situation where you can‘t express your medical care preferences, advance decisions (living wills) can be essential. These documents allow you to specify in advance the medical procedures you consent to or refuse, make your wishes known to doctors, exercise greater self-determination and lessen the burden on your loved ones.
Several organisations provide templates, for example
Information portal of the Swiss authorities ch.ch
Fill out the document of your choice, date and sign it. Give it to someone you trust or your GP and inform your Swiss representation where you have stored it. You can draw up a living will at any age and change your mind at any time.
- What are my assets - what property, possessions or financial resources do I own?
- Who should inherit them - what do I need to do?
- Am I familiarised with the inheritance laws in my country of residence, as these may affect the validity and enforcement of my will?
Drawing up a will is a way of expressing your wishes about how your assets should be distributed after your death.
You can obtain this legal information from a lawyer or notary in your country of residence. Draw up a document that complies with the relevant legal requirements and make sure to date and sign it. Give this document to a trusted relative or notary, and let your Swiss representation know where it is stored. Remember that a will can be drawn up at any stage in life and revised as often as you deem necessary.
Preparing properly for your retirement abroad includes looking at your finances. You will therefore need to consult the relevant organisations in good time regarding pension payouts and insurance.
Make sure that your benefits (old-age, survivors’ and invalidity insurance, pension plan and other insurances) are transferred correctly. If you change your place of residence, you must inform the OASI compensation office, your pension fund and insurance providers. The Swiss Compensation Office (SCO) sends a certificate of life and marital status each year to anyone receiving benefits. To make sure that your pension continues to be paid without any gaps, you must get the completed form endorsed by the right authority and returned within 90 days.
Standard pension benefits can be transferred to any place of residence. Payment is made directly by the SCO in the currency of the country of residence as a rule. You may also choose to have your benefits paid into a personal postal or bank account in Switzerland. Please note that helplessness allowances and supplementary benefits are only paid out if you are resident in Switzerland. Find out more from the Central Compensation Office (CCO).
As a rule, you can draw occupational pension benefits when abroad. Your pension fund can provide you with more information.
With regard to health insurance, different rules apply depending on whether you settle in a country within the EU/EFTA or in a third country. Follow the instructions below and contact the relevant authorities for detailed information.
If you are a pensioner with residence in an EU/EFTA country, there are special provisions. You will generally remain under the compulsory health insurance system in Switzerland if the only pension you receive is a Swiss one. Some EU countries allow you to choose which national insurance scheme takes precedence in your individual case. For more details, visit the websites of the Federal Office of Public Health (information on persons with residence in an EU/EFTA state and applicability of health insurance cover) and the HIA Collective Institution. Hospital costs and doctors' fees can be expensive abroad, so make sure you have good health insurance cover. You should discuss this with your insurance provider before reaching retirement age.
- Depending on what country you are in, a public (usually cheaper) hospital can be a problem if you do not have the right language skills.
- At the other end of the scale, it is also important to know what services are actually covered, particularly in a private clinic.
- If you want to get a residence permit, you will usually have to provide proof of the right insurance cover.
If you move to a third country (outside the EU/EFTA), you can no longer take out statutory health insurance (LAMal basic insurance) in Switzerland. Please note the distinction between basic and private insurance. Good insurance cover is important, so make sure you approach this issue as thoroughly as possible and get the right cover e.g. through private insurance. Specialised insurance providers can advise you on non-mandatory insurance. International insurance options can be very expensive after you reach a certain age, so expect there to be some reservations (depending on your state of health). Make sure you compare the different offers and find out from the authorities in your destination country whether health insurance is compulsory there. Please also note the following:
HIA Collective Institution (de, fr, it)
Under the Accident Insurance Act (AIA), only paid workers in Switzerland have to be covered by the compulsory accident insurance scheme; everyone else is covered by the LAMal. If you are a pensioner, you should therefore first find out whether continuing your LAMal insurance is possible in Switzerland (e.g. if you have residence in an EU/EFTA country). If this is the case, you will remain insured against accidents under the compulsory health insurance system. If you leave the basic compulsory insurance scheme however, you must arrange your own accident cover. Private health insurance usually also covers accidents. You should also find out if there is an obligation to take out accident insurance in your country of residence. You can take out a private global accident and life insurance policy but these are rather expensive.
If you leave Switzerland for good, you will no longer be subject to full tax liability. If you have immovable assets (e.g. property) or income from a business activity based in Switzerland however, you remain subject to limited tax liability. There is no withholding tax for OASI pensions in Switzerland, but lump-sum benefits from Swiss pension funds and institutions for tied pension provision (2nd and 3a pillars) are always subject to withholding tax. If there is a double taxation agreement between Switzerland and your country of residence that assigns the right of taxation to that country, you can request the withholding tax to be refunded. Withholding tax is only deducted from pensions and board member fees if Switzerland has the right of taxation. It also imposes a 35% withholding tax on dividends paid by Swiss companies, the interest on bonds issued by Swiss borrowers, and the interest on Swiss bank deposits. This can also be partially (or in exceptional cases fully) reclaimed if there is a double taxation agreement with your country of residence. Which income or assets will be taxed depends on the taxation law in your country of residence.
Find out more on the website of the State Secretariat for International Finance (SIF).
Swiss nationals living abroad and Swiss banks
Because of stricter regulations and international tax requirements, Swiss banks are doing less business with customers living abroad, or have tightened their conditions and scales of charges for managing accounts. The relationship between a bank and its client is governed by private law. If you are affected, it is a good idea to talk to your bank while you are preparing to go abroad so that you can find a solution that both meets your needs and complies with the bank's regulations. This is an area that is changing all the time. The Consular Directorate and Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA) are following developments closely. You can also follow the discussion on the OSA's website and the SwissCommunity.org forum.
Consider your wishes for your funeral and post-death arrangements.
- Understand local funeral rites.
- Decide your final resting place.
- Make financial provision for your funeral.
- Decide whether you want to be an organ donor.
Write down your wishes or tell a relative or your GP. You can do this at any age and change your mind at any time. Let your Swiss representation know who you have told about your wishes or where you have stored your instructions.
Webinar Inheritance Planning for Swiss abroad (french)
One of the FDFA‘s main tasks is to support Swiss citizens living abroad. This assistance is not unlimited however, and there is no legal entitlement to it. Moreover, it only includes services that fall within the scope of consular duties and responsibilities. Swiss representations therefore do not offer the following services (non-exhaustive list):
- Local administrative procedures (obtaining a residence permit, local allowances, translations, etc.).
- Finding a care home.
- Visiting hospitals and care homes.
- Accompanying you to medical appointments.
- Handling or answering enquiries regarding Swiss banks.
- Handling or answering real-estate related questions.
The Swiss Abroad Act and Ordinance place particular emphasis on the principle of personal responsibility: every individual shall exercise personal responsibility when planning or undertaking a stay abroad or when working abroad and try to overcome any difficulties on their own. This means that whatever assistance Swiss representations may provide is subsidiary and, in particular, that consular protection is not a right.
It is therefore your responsibility to take necessary steps to avoid finding yourself in difficult circumstances and, if necessary, to seek solutions on your own. Additionally, it is crucial to have a contingency plan in case you are no longer able to make decisions independently.